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Full text of "My Country And My People"

THE    ART    OF    LIVING                    305

gossip about fox spirits, go to operas, beat drums and gongs,
play the flute, practise on calligraphy, munch duck-gizzards,
salt carrots, fondle walnuts, fly eagles, feed carrier-pigeons,
quarrel with their tailors, go on pilgrimages, visit temples,
climb mountains, watch boatraces, hold bullfights, take
aphrodisiacs, srnoke opium, gather at street corners, shout at
aeroplanes, fulminate against the Japanese, winder at the
white people, criticize their politicians, read Buddhist classics,
practise deep-breathing, hold Buddhist seances, consult fortune-
tellers, catch crickets, eat melon seeds, gamble for moon-cakes,
hold lantern competitions, burn rare incense, eat noodles,
solve literary riddles, train pot-flowers, send one another birth-
day presents, kow-tow to one another, produce children, and sleep.

For the Chinese have always had geniality, joviality, taste
and finesse. The great majority still keep their geniality and
their joviality, although the educated ones in modern China
are usually bad-tempered and pessimistic, having lost all their
sense of values. Few of them still show any taste and finesse,
and this is natural, for taste comes with tradition. Man is
taught to admire beautiful things, not by books but by social
example, and by living in a society of good taste. The spirit
of man in the industrial age is ugly, anyway, and the spirit of
man in China, throwing overboard all that is best and finest in
their social tradition in a mad rush for things Western without
the Western tradition, is uglier still to look at. In the whole
villadom of Shanghai, with all its millionaires, there is only one
decent Chinese garden and it is owned by a Jew, All of the
Chinese have gone in for the tennis lawn and geometric
flower-beds and trimmed hedges, and tailored trees trained to
look a perfect circle or a perfect cone, and flowers planted to
represent letters of the English alphabet. Shanghai is not
China, but Shanghai is an ominous indication of what modern
China may come to. It leaves a bad flavour in our mouths like
those Chinese-made Western cream-cakes made with pigs' lard.
And it jars on our senses like those Chinese brass bands playing
"Onward, Christian Soldiers!" in a funeral march. Tradition
and taste must take time to grow up.

There was taste in ancient China, and we can see what is
left of it in beautiful nlrl